My magnificent drabbleplex ‘A Hundred Words from a Civil War’ is only 89% my own work. With the blessing of the editors, the other eleven contributors to A Romance in Twelve Parts each chipped in with a 100-word piece, following up on their own stories in the afterlife of the City of the Saved.
While each of these eleven contributions is splendid, and I love the additional texture which they lend the final story (as well as the work they do in tying the entire volume coherently together), it’s possible that some readers might feel that inviting others to help with my homework was cheating – that I haven’t, in fact, written a drabbleplex at all.
To avert such accusations (and, much more importantly, for fun) here are eleven ‘deleted scenes’ which might stand in place of those additional contributions – although I think both the story and the anthology would be impoverished if they did.
(They were originally published as teasers for the story on my blog. Click the hieroglyphic numbers for links to the original posts.)
Mnaea Marla lies beneath the rubble, clutching the grenade. The enemy are searching the building. It’s only a matter of time. Her left arm is a useless crumpled thing, and both her legs are broken.
Worst of all, her left head is dead, caved in bloodily under a falling brick. No surgeon can bring back that unique consciousness – her aggravating twin, her friend and lover, her conscience and tempter. They can never be together again now, except in death – death, and the hope of further resurrection.
The enemy are close now. Marla primes the grenade, kisses herself goodbye, and waits.
The City’s Southwest fringes belong to the survivors of one brief skirmish between time-active powers back in the universe. Its tangential contact with European civilisation was short-lived but, for these people, defining.
Once, the pilot smuggled Wessexite spies across the borders of the Northumbrian Workers’ Republic. Now she awaits an evacuation order. The erstwhile Tin Emirs of al-Kernow have employed Skræling berserkers from the Greenlander Realms to fight against His Majesty’s Third Assegais.
Next to the pilot sits Chaka George Edward, formerly Emperor of Great Britain and Zululand. His parents, Cetawayo and Victoria, remember only their conventionally recorded lives.
Stormance and Limptrace Districts face one another across the River Runn, a medium-sized watercourse with a width similar to that of the Pacific Ocean. Long-term economic rivals, they have recently become deadly enemies.
When one District (it hardly matters which) launches an atomic strike against the other, the devastation generates a ripple which gains power as it crosses the river, slamming into the opposite bank with much of the force of the original detonation.
Those who survive the tsunami’s impact succumb afterwards to compromised cholera bacteria carried by a refugee from distant Keltoria District.
In the City, everybody is connected.
The wight stares at its severed arm. ‘You’ll pay for that, sonny,’ it promises.
It grabs Mokkameth’s wrist, twisting his sword away, pressing his palm against the livid stump of its shoulder.
Mokkameth’s fingertips sink into the wight’s flesh. His arm begins to lose sensation as its skin blanches, the pallor of the wight’s hide seeping quickly across his own brown pigment.
The paleness reaches Mokkameth’s shoulder, a hold loosens within – and the wight withdraws new-built fingers, leaving behind a clean and puckered wound.
‘You’re so lucky that wasn’t my head, sunshine,’ it growls, shaking its stolen biceps into place.
In every instant a million wounds, a thousand deaths, are inflicted on Oluseyi Hive. Oluseyi feels the agony of them all, absorbs and transcends them. Its enemy, Nishizawa Hive, is assuredly suffering as well.
Each moment Oluseyi’s distributed intelligence implements a hundred strategies, considers and rejects ten thousand more. Subverted components among the enemy’s stratified, highly specialised military fight fervently for Nishizawa, transmitting their knowledge back to Oluseyi all the while.
Meanwhile, Oluseyi’s builders and troglodytic burrowers delve ever further into the base-substrate, carving out fortified nurseries for the fertile castes. In some form, Oluseyi will survive any possible defeat.
The City is both Zion and Babylon.
Zion, because it is a world in which every man can be himself, free from the chains of his first life. In the City, the Emperor Haile Selassie has ceased to deny his godhood and lives (like his contemporaries Hirohito and Philip Mountbatten) surrounded by his worshippers.
Babylon, because of who’s in charge.
The white man is coming for Ras Tafari. Mounted conquistadors trample the streets of Menelik District, towards the Grand Palace.
The locals rally under the flag of the Lion of Judah, to defend the King of Kings from his oppressor.
‘How long did this take to build?’ Gerhardt gazes into the dark maw the sappers have exposed.
‘It’s pre-Resurrection,’ Kurt replies. ‘The Pharaohs woke in replicas of the tombs they had built to house them in the afterlife.’
Two of the stormtroopers jog ahead into the passageway.
‘So when this Sethnakht redied, they simply sealed him in?’
‘And now the Deputy Mayor...’
‘Wants him dug up again, yes. She feels that he may represent –’
An inhuman roar emerges from the broken stone. A bandaged figure lurches forward, brandishing a limp, uniformed body.
‘– a threat,’ Kurt concludes.
A dragon hisses and snaps at its handler, tail thrashing, hungry for flesh. The hobbits are going to war against the ogres.
The diminutive Citizens of Erbor District’s island margins have always had troubled relations with the beetle-browed giants of the uplands. These thickset Homo antecessor Citizens were once a culture of cannibals, and have gazed hungrily at their tiny Homo floresiensis neighbours since long before the collapse of invulnerability. Now they grind the hobbits’ bones to make their bread.
In retaliation, the floresians have been domesticating the marshlands’ vicious monitor lizards.
The dragon-handlers’ charges trudge onwards towards the foothills.
‘Who was he?’ The investigator wears a greatcoat and muffler. ‘Apart from being a Remake, an academic and a closet gay, obviously. And taking his phobia of Tube travel as read.’
‘Remake?’ Inspector Inshaller stammers. ‘No, he was a maths lecturer. Dr Roamers-Jay.’
‘Oh, typical,’ he sneers. Hologlyphs in various alphabets and number-systems orbit his camelish face. ‘Someone’s leaving me a trail of dead Moriartys, and none of them are mine.’
‘Erm,’ Inshaller says. ‘No offence, but when we hired the Great Detective Agency, we were expecting someone a bit more...’
‘Heritage? Yeah,’ he sighs. ‘I get that a lot.’
Once, the tribes of Mesara Plains Park sent their strongest, bravest young males to become bodyguards in the households of the rich. Now Mesara has been designated a Collateral Reservation, administered by a Sheriff from nearby Samraja District.
The Mesarans are, to all intents and purposes, minotaurs, their human DNA ancestrally mingled with that of a proud species of bovinoid warriors. They do not accept subjugation willingly. Nor, now, is there any occupation for their restless youth.
A troupe of them has surrounded the wagon-train bearing a gaggle of Samraji Civil servants. They brandish traditional axes and utter bloodcurdling bellows.
[NB: In the alternative universe where ‘A Hundred Words from a Civil War’ was published without the guest contributions, this drabble appears as number LI.]
The persistent rain of Paynesdown forms a case-study for the potential weaponisation of the City’s gigaclimate being undertaken by meteorologists from Rullish District University, one of the students in whose Physics Department is secretly accumulating nuclear material at the behest of a cult whose restrictive views on the nature, definition and exclusive right to continued existence of ‘Chromosomal Humanity’ have led to their investigation by a Civil Intelligence Agent, whose partner was recently murdered using contact poison supplied by a neuro-bokor who is practicing experimental zombification processes on a consignment of slaves purchased from mercenaries from the Romuline District, where:
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A Romance in Twelve Parts cover © Lawrence Burton 2011.